A Federal Appeals Court ruled yesterday that pregnant illegal immigrants in the United States have no right to prenatal care under Medicaid; the case follows a recent trend severely cutting back health care for illegal immigrants in this country. The court ruled that “the denial of prenatal care is not unconstitutional,” but that children born to illegal immigrants are entitled to Medicaid benefits for one year after birth. Past cases on this issue, as well as the recent case, argue that the key issue is whether a fetus can be considered a dependent child and therefore entitled to Medicaid benefits. The issue of women’s health seems to have been omitted from the deliberations.
As a result of the Appeals Court decision, more than 13,000 illegal immigrant women in the state of New York will be denied crucial prenatal care that could prevent maternal mortality and morbidity as well as fetal defects and low-birthweight babies. A State Department of Health survey demonstrated that while the birth cost for a healthy baby is $1,200, that of a low-weight baby is as high as $10,000 to $65,000.